Coming into the 2013 season, right-hander Tyler Glasnow was ranked by MLB.com as the Pirates' No. 19 prospect -- just 19 years old, the 6-foot-7 California native was thought to have a high ceiling but still raw enough to need more time in Short-Season or Rookie-level ball.
Glasnow won a starting role with full-season Class A West Virginia in Spring Training, however, and put together a very impressive campaign, going 9-3 with a 2.18 ERA and fanning an even more impressive 164 batters -- fourth-most in the Minor Leagues -- in just 111 1/3 innings. He held South Atlantic League hitters to a .142 average and was named to the Topps/MiLB Class A All-Star Team.
Glasnow's star rose so quickly that he became part of trade rumors as the contending Pirates looked to improve their big league team at the MLB Trade Deadline. Pittsburgh ultimately held on to the young hurler, who closed out the regular season with three sterling outings during which he allowed one hit and struck out 24 over 14 innings, becoming the Pirates' Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
Now ranked as the No. 96 prospect in all baseball with a mid-90s fastball, a possible plus curveball and an improving changeup, Glasnow spoke to MiLB.com from his home in California.
MiLB.com: What have you been up to so far during the offseason?
Tyler Glasnow: Not too much. I'm back home in California, lifting and running a few days a week. I won't start throwing again until probably after Christmas. I've been spending a little time at the driving range -- I'm too bad to actually go out on the golf course.
MiLB.com: The Pirates really emphasize the changeup with pitchers in Class A, which I'm guessing you didn't need too much in high school. What was the adjustment like learning that new pitch?
Glasnow: In the beginning it wasn't natural at all, but my pitching coach, Jeff Johnson, said that if you want to be good, you have to use it. We worked on it a lot during Spring Training and I found a grip that I liked. It got better through the season to the point where sometimes it was the pitch I was most comfortable with.
MiLB.com: How important was Johnson to your development this year?
Glasnow: Really important. If it wasn't for him, I don't think I'd have done nearly as well. He's someone you can really talk to. I've had times struggling with my location and he was a big help in getting me to focus.
As the season went along, he and the pitchers and catchers would have meetings where we'd go over scouting and the game plan. I was also blessed with some great catchers to work with -- I'd shake off pitches every once in a while, but for the most part we were all on the same page.
MiLB.com: Considering your height, I imagine the ball is sometimes coming from places that hitters aren't used to. Do you change your arm slot or release point at all?
Glasnow: Not really. I try to focus on coming over the top on a down angle -- like you said, it's harder for hitters to pick up. Sometimes I had problems keeping my fastball down, so I'm more trying to repeat my motion than vary things.
MiLB.com: I've seen you mention that you sometimes need to slow down your pace on the mound. What happens when you work too quickly?
Glasnow: I get caught up in results rather than following the plan, and I start to rush things and overthink stuff, especially if there are guys on base. You just need to take a few deep breaths and focus on what you're trying to do rather than what just happened.
MiLB.com: There were a lot of rumors flying around just before the Major League Trade Deadline -- I specifically saw one that had you going to the Astros as part of a deal for Bud Norris. Were you aware of that? Was it tough to maintain your focus?
Glasnow: I heard some rumors on Twitter, but I wasn't thinking too much about that stuff. I had enough on my plate pitching every fifth day and trying to improve, really.
MiLB.com: You went to the same high school as James Shields and Trevor Bauer, who's only a couple years older than you. Did you play with Bauer or ever talk to them?
Glasnow: We have mutual connections, but [Bauer]'s older and we never played together. I remember seeing him around, though, and thinking, "He's that really good pitcher!"
MiLB.com: Growing up north of Los Angeles, I assume you were a Dodgers fan? Who were your favorite players?
Glasnow: Yeah, definitely. It's weird -- he never played for the Dodgers and wasn't a pitcher, but I always liked Alfonso Soriano. As far as pitchers go, I guess Clayton Kershaw, even though he's a lefty.
MiLB.com: That's a pretty good role model for a young pitcher. Did you play any other sports? I'm sure you were in demand for basketball.
Glasnow: When I was younger I played almost any sport I could. My freshman year of high school I even played football, which was just the goofiest mess ever. My favorites were probably track and field and basketball, but as I got older I concentrated just on baseball.
MiLB.com: You had committed to the University of Portland before being drafted by the Pirates. Was it a tough decision to go pro?
Glasnow: I committed before my senior season in high school, which is when I started to get attention from other places. It was kind of a tough call. I wasn't sure I was ready for pro ball and was leaning toward going to college, but after talking with the Pirates and some people who had gone through the process -- learning how careers progressed in the pros -- I made the decision. So far it's been great.
MiLB.com: You had a great season personally and your West Virginia team made the playoffs for the first time in a while. What was the high point of the year for you?
Glasnow: I really don't know. Shooting champagne was fun, I'd never done that before. It's nothing particular, I guess. Playing this season was the most fun I've ever had in baseball -- our team was so close and we had so many great guys. I'll never forget it.
MiLB.com: Were the guys great enough to give you some extra room on those long bus rides?
Glasnow: There was extra leg room in the back of the bus, so usually the taller guys -- mostly pitchers -- would head back there. To be honest, I would sometimes stretch out on the dirty floor -- I couldn't even handle the seats for sleeping.